Flashback Friday: The Beginning of the Lou Montanez Saga

Revisiting the 2000 Major League Baseball draft and its ties to the Orioles

by Matthew Taylor

Some of the names from the 2000 MLB draft and their respective fates since they were selected are well known. They’re the guys who have had their cup of coffee and and a refill, players like Adrian Gonzalez (selected No. 1 by Florida), Rocco Baldelli (No. 6 – Tampa Bay), Chase Utley (No. 15 – Philadelphia), John “Boof” Bonser (No. 21 – Atlanta), and Adam Wainwright (No. 29 – Atlanta).

Then there are the players who aren’t experiencing a late-season pennant race like Baldelli, the ones who haven’t tasted World Series glory like Wainright. Guys like Lou Montanez. This week’s Flashback Friday revisits the 2000 MLB draft and its obvious connections to the Birds.

The rundown on Montanez following the draft, in which he was selected third by the Cubs, went as follows (source: USA Today):

3. Chicago (NL): SS Luis Montanez, Coral Park High, Miami. He’s 6 feet tall, weighs 165 and hit .421 this year. He’ll be compared to longtime Cubs shortstop Shawon Dunston for his arm and bat. Dunston’s arm was better, but Montanez has comparable range. Will sign in $ 2.75 million range. Hit .431 with 25 RBI in 27 games.

Eight years later, Montanez is wearing Orange and Black and fighting to make a Big League name for himself in order to stay on the Birds’ roster. It’s surely not what he envisioned at the time: “Montanez said he will sign and compared himself to “the new breed of powerful shortstops that teams like the Yankees (Derek Jeter), Boston (Nomar Garciaparra) and Seattle (Alex Rodriguez) revolve around.'”

While the Orioles would eventually wind up with Montanez, they envisioned Beau Hale and Tripper Johnson in their future back then. These days you can catch Hale on Facebook rather than a baseball diamond and, as was noted in a Roar from 34 post last week, Johnson is on the football field.

Here’s the story on Hale and Johnson from 2000, courtesy of The Washington Times:

“Beau Hale led Texas into the College World Series on Saturday night. Yesterday, the fireballing right-hander became the Baltimore Orioles’ first-round selection in the baseball draft.

Hale, a Sporting News second-team All-American, was the 14th player taken. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior threw a three-hit shutout Saturday against Penn State and boasts a 12-5 record and 2.77 ERA for the Longhorns. Hale tossed a no-hitter in February against Sam Houston State, throws in the upper 90s and struck out 125 in 139 innings this season.

‘Amen,’ Orioles director of player personnel Syd Thrift said. ‘We were hoping we would get this guy.’

Baltimore chose third baseman Tripper Johnson, out of Newport High School in Bellevue, Wash., with the 32nd pick overall. The Orioles also took Richard Bartlett, a right-hander from Kamiakin (Wash.) High, and Cooper High (Tex.) catcher Tommy Arko with their two third-round picks.

‘We were surprised Hale was available,’ Baltimore director of scouting Tony DeMacio said about the pitcher, who comes from the same college program as Roger Clemens and Greg Swindell. ‘Our problem was we didn’t know if we would get that type of arm where we were picking.’

The scouting director said one reason Hale slipped might have been money. Several small-market clubs may have passed on him fearing he would cost too much to sign. With the left-handers taken and Baldelli gone well before most experts expected, DeMacio wasted no time grabbing Hale.

‘About a 96 miles-an-hour fastball,’ DeMacio said about what separated Hale from other possible choices. ‘He’s a power arm is what he is. He is a strikeout pitcher. He’s very strong and very durable.’

Thrift forecasts Hale will begin his pro career at Class A Delmarva.

Baltimore took one of the draft’s few power-hitting prospects in Johnson with their second pick.

‘Johnson is a good athlete who shows power,” DeMacio said. “He is a Jeff Cirillo/Ken Caminiti type'””

Another common Orioles thread from the 2000 draft is a guy who was surely involved in the discussions surrounding Montanez: then-Cubs President and CEO Andy MacPhail.

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About mptaylor11

Roar from 34, a Baltimore Orioles Blog. Humor. History. Homerism. Since 2006.
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